FRC trustees discuss censure, removal of Trent Saxton
By Debra Moore
The football coach, a pastor and two community members asked the Feather River College board of trustees during its July 16 meeting to censure Trustee Trent Saxton for “racist, bigoted and homophobic comments” that he has posted to social media.
Their concerns were voiced during public comment, as well as during an item that had been placed on the agenda by community members.
The trustees ultimately decided to seek legal counsel, and the topic will be addressed again during their August meeting.
Football coach and pastor speak out
During the public comment period of the meeting, FRC football coach Nick Goulet and the Rev. Matt Warren both recognized the efforts of the trustees in passing a resolution last month that condemned racism and supported diversity, but didn’t think that effort went far enough in addressing comments made by Trustee Saxton.
Goulet read a statement that he said represented himself, his coaching staff and players. “This is about human decency. I lead a group of young, impressionable men,” Goulet said near the beginning of his remarks. After talking about the need of working for the collective good, he added, “If any one of my players had taken the liberty of posting such hate speech on social media, that player would most certainly be reprimanded by our administration. Our students deserve to have better examples.”
Goulet who is responsible for recruiting and coaching, as well as guiding his student athletes as they transition into college life, asked, “How is it that am I going to be able to recruit student athletes of color, which is responsible for the majority of the diversity on this campus knowing that the district does not support their interests. They need to be able to feel comfortable and secure on this campus and community.”
Near the conclusion of his statement, Goulet said, “I challenge Trent Saxton to resign his position on the board and not fall victim to pride and ego.” He told the board that if Saxton failed to resign, it would be up to them to take action.
Matt Warren, who is an Episcopal priest, and also associate faculty at the college, spoke in his role as acting president for the associate faculty union. “We, as a unit, feel there’s no place for the racist, bigoted, homophobic remarks of Trustee Saxton and while we recognize the First Amendment rights of all of our community, freedom of speech is not immunity from consequences.”
Warren said that his union and that of the full-time faculty are researching whether Saxton’s comments constitute a hostile work environment.
Officially on the agenda
While Goulet and Warren addressed the trustees during public comment, two others — Stephanie Leaf and Pastor Kendrah Fredricksen presented an agenda item officially asking that Trustee Trent Saxton be censured and/or request his resignation pursuant to board policy.
Leaf addressed the resolution passed by the board last month and said that while it focuses on racial discrimination, “the content makes clear that discrimination of many types is intended, including discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender, gender identity and gender expression.”
She said that shortly after that meeting Saxton posted on social media and she read aloud: “Christians do not accept homosexuality as a norm. You can’t cherry-pick the bible and remain a Christian. This seemingly godless BOT (board of trustees) may adopt this resolution. My Christian faith and my belief in God will not afford me … to support their Utopian anti-Christian resolution…”
She said she viewed that statement and others made by Saxton as his refusal to uphold the board’s resolution and that it proves he is attempting to undermine the values of FRC and its board. Leaf also cited previous objections she has made about Saxton’s conduct and said, “His behavior is inappropriate for someone occupying the role of FRC trustee.”
Fredricksen read a statement on behalf of the Plumas County Gay Straight Alliance. She said that the alliance has always felt supported by the college, but recent statements by Saxton undermined that confidence. “If a current LGBTQIA+ student or potential student were to see the comments written by him, we believe they might feel like this campus is an unsafe environment for them.”
She then referred to a portion of the college’s manual that addresses the code of ethics and standards practice for the board of trustees. She said that if a trustee couldn’t embrace those standards or the ordinance passed by the board, it is their duty to resign.
Following their remarks, Trustee Guy McNett made a motion to table the item until legal counsel could be sought, however Trustee John Sheehan made a motion to disavow Saxton’s statements and his Facebook posts. Trustee Bill Elliott seconded Sheehan’s motion and then the trustees discussed the matter more in depth.
Elliott laid out the path that the trustees should take as contained in their policies: 1. Determine if there is a violation of the code of ethics; 2. The president of the board speaks to the trustee; 3. If that is unsuccessful, an ad hoc committee is formed to meet with the trustee.
“I want to make sure we are on solid ground,” Elliott said.
Sheehan reiterated that he wanted to make a statement that disassociated the board from Saxton.
McNett said he agreed but he wanted to follow the board’s policy. “We would be remiss if we don’t follow that procedure,” he said. “The issue of a violation of the code of ethics has been raised; we don’t have a choice.”
Sheehan said he would withdraw his motion as long as the formal process begins.
Board Chairman Dana Ware said that she wanted the opinion of legal counsel, and told her fellow trustees that since she was the only one of them who was employed, she would need their help.
It was decided that the matter would be discussed after legal advice was obtained.
Trustee Saxton, who had been silent during the remarks, said simply: “I understand you disagree with my politics and religious beliefs, however that has no place at this table.”